How many films about autism do you know? I guess, only a few.  Williams’s new film is going to turn upside down your perception of the problem:  with the help of latest technology, it shows an inside look of communication with autistic people.


Never growing up

The story starts when Suskind was three years old: his motor and language skills impaired and he faced with significant challenges in making contact with family. In 1990s his parents couldn’t receive a support needed: medical research of autism was just on its start. But suddenly, after a while, family found a way how to adjust reality to Owen: by watching Disney cartoons he was able to express his emotions and put them in words. “Life, Animated” was filmed on the basis of Ron Suskind, Owen’s father, book. By listening voices of characters from  “Peter Pan,” “Aladdin,” “The Lion King,” “The Little Mermaid” Owen entered the real world, step by step, repeating funny dialogues from cartoons. “Movies are always the same. Every time you pop it in, every time you put in a VHS it will always be the same movie and the same language and the same characters instead of constantly changing, the way it does with people, even my expressions, with you and me sitting here.(…) And I think the combination of the music and animation together activating those parts of the brain were really key in tapping into how Owen was feeling but not able to express”, – explains Owen’s mother, Cornelia, the advantages of such method.

Of course, for the first period parents were concerned about the amount of time their son has spent in front of TV screen: he was incredibly passionate about cartoon heroes, they were his best friends. Like Peter Pan, he seemed never growing up, always surrounded with the atmosphere of fairytale. The deep love and devotion of parents helped Owen finally get his speech back and now, at the age of 25, he started to live separately, working in a movie theater and dating with girlfriend.


Honest about struggles

The whole film introduces us a  totally new way of perceiving disability issue, as seen through Owen’s experience. The power of love and a feel of togetherness let Owen to battle the pain, sufferings, school bullying. The film main message to audience is quite simple to understand, but not so easy to follow: we should always remember about those who need our care and never, never give up trying our best for their happiness. Owen’s parents launched themed website, by which they want to share the information about autism with other families and increase the global awareness on the issue. They currently  cooperate with best neuroscientists and technologists in order to create a mobile service for global support system. In fact, the lack of resources for curing remains nowadays, what makes thousands of autist children devastated.

Williams was deeply touched by the practice of communication with Owen. “It was important that Owen told the story from his point of view because so many films about people with disabilities are always from the outside looking in”, – he says. He also detects some similarities in their paths: “There’s this kid who felt left behind, who felt like people looked past him—and there’s me, this black, gay man who also felt left behind and that people looked past me and we’ve come together to tell the story of the underdog, the sidekick”.


Inside the interrotron

The equipment, that Williams used for interviewing Owen, was invented by Errol Morris. It provides a possibility to keep a long-lasting eye contact with camera and with interviewer at the same time. Such innovation significantly humanizes the filmmaking process, reflecting the intimacy and emotional side if the speech. The device was named an “Interrotron,”  a combination of the words “interview” and “terror” because it prevented fear in his non-professional actors. Here you can see the complicated technical structure of the most well-known model in use, its advances and instruction to operate with.  That’s how homemade device simplified the cinema industry and uncovered new approaches for cases  we should definitely know.

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